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The controversial decision to sack Sean Dyche after nearly a decade in charge and some incredible achievements in that time was understandably greeted with outrage from the outside and consternation among Burnley fans last month, but it is becoming more and more difficult to argue against it now.
Dyche’s replacement Mike Jackson – still only in caretaker charge of the club – has overseen a remarkable and immediate upturn in form, taking 10 points from a possible 12 at the helm so far, including victories in each of his last three games.
Those wins over Southampton, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford respectively – the latter a dramatic late turnaround to effectively condemn their opponents to relegation – mean that Jackson has now picked up as many points in his first four games as Dyche managed in his final 10.
Not since April 2018 have the Clarets won four Premier League games on the bounce, while Jackson is looking to become only the fourth manager in Burnley history to open his reign with a five-match unbeaten streak.
Momentum can be crucial in such relegation battles, but 18th-placed Everton also picked up a much-needed and morale-boosting win last time out and have a game in hand, while 17th-placed Leeds United’s only defeat in their last six came against Manchester City.
Burnley’s recent form has been all the more remarkable given that it has come in the absence of some key players, most of whom will still be missing this weekend.
Ben Mee is in a race to return before the end of the season, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Ashley Westwood and Jay Rodriguez will all miss out once again on Saturday.
Erik Pieters could be back available, though, and Maxwel Cornet, who will undergo a late test to determine whether he can be part of the squad having now returned to training following a knee problem.
Regardless, with such a small squad at his disposal, Jackson’s options to rotate are severely limited by such an injury list, although he may see very little need to tinker with a winning formula right now anyway.
Aston Villa’s own injury list grew last time out as Leon Bailey was forced off before half time, and he is expected to be absent for this match too.
Bailey’s replacement against Norwich – Danny Ings – came off the bench to score, though, and he is likely to start this time around against his former club.
Ings has scored in each of his last three league outings against Burnley, and could join Craig Bellamy (against Newcastle United) as the only players to net in four consecutive Premier League games against a former club.
Watkins was also back on the scoresheet last time out, and another this weekend would see him become the first Aston Villa player to reach double figures for goals in consecutive top-flight campaigns since Christian Benteke from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
Elsewhere, the visitors will still be without Kortney Hause, while Gerrard revealed in his pre-match press conference that Jacob Ramsey is a major doubt, but Ezri Konsa and Douglas Luiz will be keen to earn their places back after surprisingly being left out last week.
Youngster Tim Iroegbunam made his debut in that match and could be involved again, although he may have to settle for a place on the bench this time around.
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Morgan Sanson is back in training, meanwhile, but Saturday’s match will likely come too soon for him to start.
Burnley possible starting lineup:
Pope; Roberts, Collins, Tarkowski, Taylor; McNeil, Brownhill, Cork, Lennon; Weghorst, Vydra
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young; McGinn, Luiz, Buendia; Coutinho; Ings, Watkins